England head coach Steve McNamara has said that he’d continue to keep going down the route of playing teams like France ahead of major Test series in years to come, rather than do what New Zealand did last weekend.
The Kiwis were given a stern test by Super League champions Leeds at a packed Headingley Carnegie, whilst England cantered to an 84-4 victory against the French at Leigh.
McNamara yesterday fielded questions ahead of the first Test against the Kiwis on Sunday, and when asked if he felt England could play the Super League champions before major tournaments, he said that the nation has a duty of care to help boost the international game in the northern hemisphere, rather than play exhibitions.
“We’ve got a responsibility to enhance the international game and France need help and assistance to achieve their potential,” he said. “They’re a lot better than the team that was beaten by 80 points.
“We want to play as many international games as we can so it’s more about working through some of the issues and problems they have. I’d look at that more than playing against a club side.
“There are enough good international teams out there but we have a duty to enhance the northern hemisphere sides. We’d all love more fixtures and France is our closest side – we’d love to play a full-strength side more times than we do.”
Despite the lack of a competitive edge, McNamara insists the opening autumn international was a useful exercise for his team, who were playing together for the first time for almost 12 months.
“It was perhaps mundane for some people watching one side score and score and score but for me our execution and ability to concentrate for a long period of time was really good,’ he said. ‘It was a test of concentration and execution.”
McNamara was a pioneer of the Exiles fixtures that replaced the regular mid-season international against France, but concedes that the interests of Super League clubs mean it is unlikely they will ever return.
“I’m keen to explore all avenues to create a stronger international environment,” he added. “The Exiles games were important and the stats backed it up – the numbers were like an international or a play-off game – but the change of the Super League season makes it difficult to have another game or two games into an already congested calendar.
“I’d look to create more opportunities, but the two domestic competitions really need to come together and work out a plan that suits both and produce a meaningful international calendar into the game as the sport needs it.
“But ultimately it’s not just about what the England coach wants, it’s about what clubs need to be sustainable. It would be great to have more international fixtures against a highest standard of opponents but, if that means one or two Super League sides go broke, that’s not the perfect answer.”